On Election Day, I did something that I had never done before. I got into my car at 6am, drove through traffic to San Bernardino, and walked into a polling location. I’ve voted since I turned 18 two years ago, but being from Oregon, the land of mail in ballots bubbled in while sitting at the kitchen counter, I had never seen the wide array of people that go out of their way to cast their vote.
That morning I had signed up to be a poll monitor, going to three critical language polling locations to ensure that all proper translated materials were displayed, and that no voter intimidation by poll workers was going on.
When the polls opened at seven at the dot, people began to trickle in. What struck me the most was the range in ages, ability, and race that came to cast their vote. On particular voter stuck in my mind. A woman being assisted by her twelve-year-old granddaughter struggled to make her way up the ramp into the church, depending largely on her walker. Her granddaughter went into the booth with her, assisting her with the hole puncher, lining it up with the names her grandmother had selected. As they left the polling booth, they both had smiles spanning their faces. The poll workers at every station, both Democrat and Republican, emphasized multiple times to one another how this election was not to be taken lightly.
A common criticism of the right to vote is that “my vote doesn’t count anyway, so why put in the effort?” While it may be statistically true that a single persons vote counts for less than one percent, a discouraging statistic to be sure, if enough people begin to believe this sentiment, entire populations will not be represented in elections. The look that I saw on that woman’s face showed me that even that tiny percent meant so much more.
Minority groups that turned out to vote in 2008 and 2012 were fundamental to Obama victories in both elections, especially the Hispanic, woman, and youth vote. Obama won the Hispanic vote in 2008 by 44 percentage points, and with an additional 8 percentage points in 2012. Youth voters favored Obama in both 2008 and 2012, and he won 55 percent of the woman vote in both elections as well. All three of these groups have been historically underrepresented in previous elections, where the electorate had largely consisted of white males. The shift of demographics in voter turnout has shifted election victories, and is a phenomenon that will surely influence the GOP platform in time for the 2016 election.
On that sunny Election Day morning, I was incredibly thankful for the right to vote.